Updated on 26 June 2020
Reading time: 4 minutes
Ever dreamt of being utterly alone on a desert island, accompanied only by Mother Nature? I’ve done it! There’s a perfect place called Tatihou Island just off the Cotentin peninsula. Let’s set off together to this wild spot…
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
By way of doing something completely different, you just buy your tickets on shore at the Quai Vauban in Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue and push off to Tatihou Island, leaving the harbour in an amphibious boat. If you’re feeling hale and hearty you can walk across, but only at low tide.
Here, Nature is king
Check out the tide timetable and set out with good shoes. As soon as you arrive you are struck by the unique nature of the place, its seagulls and bird life, the exposure to sea winds, the foaming waves all around you. This is nature’s realm – the shriek of gulls and roar of the sea are testiment…
The island warden
The warden of the island is Ludovic, who also looks after the lighthouse here. He knows the island like the back of his hand and thanks to him we were able to learn a lot about the different species of animal and bird life that can be found here.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE ON TATIHOU ISLAND?
Tatihou is a bird reserve, protecting and monitoring over 150 different species! We had a wonderful opportunity to see the nesting habits of birds and their chicks. Another must-see on the island is the Vauban fort and ramparts, built to protect the island after the English drove the French fleet ashore in the Battle of la Hougue in May 1692. Opened in 1699 it includes a barracks for 80 men, powder rooms, a gun platform for 10 cannons and a chapel; plenty to engage with the rich history of Normandy! Since 2008 it, together with the tower of La Hougue, these forts are a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tatihou maritime museum
The Tatihou Maritime Museum is set up in a former quarantine hospital built to receive Marseille’s plague victims in 1720, and has a rich collection of marine paintings, drawings, pictures of on-board life, engravings and ceramics. Traditional boats are on display and the museum has a carpentry workshop next door where they are restored and maintained. Contemplating such boats makes you think about the bravery – and exposure -of such men to “the perils of the sea”. In the summer season group visits can be arranged, and workshops for children if you count on coming as a family!
To round off your voyage of discovery, you should see the Tatihou gardens. The Gulf Stream creates a micro-climate which allows for the development of exotic and unusual gardens, with sweet-smelling flowers, herbs and shrubs filling the air. What with the botanic garden, the “acclimatisation garden” and the maritime garden we feel we’ve covered the ground and made the most of our time!
Fort Vauban and the beaches
After our salutary walk we now think it’s time to cool off and get our feet wet or take in the dying rays of the sun over these deserted beaches – pure bliss!
But Ludo has got one last idea up his sleeve. He’s going to take us up to the top of the Vauban tower to squeeze the last drop of dazzling light out of the sunset…an incredible moment we’ll never forget. Thanks Ludo!
DINNER AND OVERNIGHT ON TATIHOU ISLAND
Enjoy a fine meal and stay overnight on Tatihou island by booking one of the bedrooms in the historic fort buildings, an experience that come highly recommended. As you arrive in the evening, a silence settles over the island and you’ll see it in a different light altogether. Make sure you book in advance for this experience. There are themed weekend packages all year round for €95which include the return boat trip, entry to the museum, dinner and overnight accommodation. There are two restaurants to choose from where you will be served excellent Normandy cuisine.
Ticket office, quai Vauban, 50550 Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue
+33 (0)2 14 29 03 30